Call for respect to indigenous peoples and an end to gender discrimination: India’s first National Dalit and Adivasi Women’s Congress

Dalit and Adivasi Women Warriors Question Caste and Gender Oppression

Sujatha Surepally | Read the entire report with more photos >>

(Impressions from the first National Dalit and Adivasi Women’s Congress held on February 15-16, 2013, at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai)

We live in nature! We die in Nature! It’s our life, if you occupy our land where should we go and how do we live? Whose land is this?

The hall is echoing with the furious voice of Dayamani Barla, veteran Adivasi activist from Jharkhand. She is trying to unite people against mining in Jharkhand, around 108 mining companies are waiting to destroy Adivasi life in the name of mining, first they come for coal, next they say power houses, it continues, we are pushed out and out further. How do we live without our land? Spectacular speech for an hour, pin drop silence all around, everyone is identifying with her pain and agony. […]

For the first time, a Dalit-Adivasi women’s congress is organized in India, and all the speakers are from Dalit, Adivasi communities. Getting them on one platform is a herculean task for anyone. Salute to all those who conceived this noble idea. What shall be the impact and the results are not important now; the process is important and the initiation is the big step; this first step is the most important step. Lots of pain has been taken by the young activists, Anoop and Gurinder from Insight Foundation, who were the faces known to many; but there was an entire team of girls (Pradnya Bhim Sindhu, Aqui Thami, Rashmi Verbena Birwa, Manju Priya and others) and boys who were working for more than two months, round the clock, to gather speakers, papers, manage the organizational issues and logistics with minimum resources.

Our ‘Dalit diva’ Thenmozhi Soundarajan, Kuffir (Round Table India), Ratnesh Kumar (Neel Kranti) etc were busy documenting the voices and the entire process with dedication and commitment. This would be the first such big conference held in India; this should be the time for reflection for the dominant castes, state and intellectuals who divide these sections in the name of cultural identities.

This conference tried to weave the depressed sections together, the underlying factors being discrimination and inequality. For many teachers, activists and students, this dais provided a platform to speak without any hesitation, editions and additions about their personal/professional experiences confronting caste, class and gender discrimination. Why even after 65 years plus we have to suffer like this? Some people ask innocently: is there caste in India? If anyone thinks caste discrimination and ill treatment of Adivasis are myths, they should definitely listen to these real life experiences.

It’s clearly evident everywhere; in literature, in educational institutions, media, policy, implementation, legislation and bureaucracy, perhaps even in the air and deep down in the layers of earth under India, that there is caste, there is discrimination against Adivasis, and women are the worst hit. A man asked a question from the floor: what do Dalit and Adivasi women expect? How do we understand this question? It again reminds me of: oh! Is there still caste in India today? To answer this question, where do we begin? Shall we say, we are discriminated against, from womb to tomb? Why are our bodies targeted? […]

Dalit and Adivasi women are struggling for their identity, struggling for nature – are they struggling only for themselves, putting their own lives and families at risk? Are they not leading movements to make a better society? If they are fighting for the land, it’s not just for them but it’s for the universe. They are the professors of biodiversity, they are the saviors of nature, they want to keep it safe for future generations, they are not asking for a share in the wealth of the rich. Even today, I repeat, even today they are asking for minimum basic needs to survive. 65 years of independence failed to provide health, education and basic social security for them in this country. […]

Many countries have special courts for indigenous tribes; they have adopted self-rule and separate judicial systems. No one can enter into their zones, and they give respect to their indigenous peoples. Why does India not follow them when we have large numbers of Adivasis? […]

The conference opened a Pandora ‘s box – now the so called labour producing educational institutions must think about the questions raised by every speaker. They should review all the research programmes and assess where they are headed. They must do introspection themselves for not producing an intellectual class which will critically think and reduce the gaps in society. There will not be any research without critical thinking; higher education, research institutions are not govt policy evaluating centers, their inputs must guide the state and society at large. […]

Sujatha Surepally teaches at Satavahana University, Karimnagar, and blogs at www.surepally.wordpress.com

Source: Dalit and Adivasi Women Warriors Question Caste and Gender Oppression | Offical Surepally’s Blog
Address : http://surepally.wordpress.com/2013/02/21/caste_gender_oppression/
Date Visited: Sun Apr 28 2013 11:40:13 GMT+0200 (CEST)

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